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Hilltop Highs in the Dordogne

Hilltop Highs in the Dordogne

Friday, September 30, 2016
Dordogne region, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy?

Beynac’s clifftop chateau is a stunner – from afar, beynacafaras well as close up. Wonderfully preserved through the centuries, beynacit was the setting of the 1998 movie Joan of Arc (in fact we were there during the filming – quite exciting to see the Maid herself trot by on an armored steed!)
The easiest way to access the fortress-castle is by driving quite a way inland from the river, then looping around to the upper parking – avoiding the challenging hike from the town below! We wound our way up, parked, then stormed the fortress ;), cam14865beginning at the lowest plateau,cam14869 then climbing up through different courtyards and towers, cam14881with spectacular views all the way up! cam14873kAfter peering off each side of the highest tower, cam14892we swirled down circular stairways to the lowest level, where the kitchen was set up as it was when knights occupied the fortress – cam14914swords at the ready at the tables. Kirk drove down to the lower parking and our guests and I stepped carefully down the ancient cobbled paths,cam14922 passing pretty homes that have hugged the lane for centuries. cam14927Our table awaits on the pretty terrace of La Petite Tonnelle, 06081403-le-tonnelle-beynac-table-on-the-terrace-recommended-by-ferme-aubergewhere the food is as delicious as the setting. Check out this unique gazpacho topped with a creme fraiche fluff – cam14935and of course there’s no better dessert than a luscious Café Gourmand!cam14937It’s a short drive to the riverside drama of La Roque Gageac, 06041403-la-roquewhere we walk up steep stairs to the cliff-hugging homes.cam14944 No, we did NOT climb that staircase tacked high onto the cliff  – see it above the roofs?!cam14948Last on our trio of Plus Beaux Villages today is hilltop Domme. Driving through one of the impressive gates, three of which remain in the powerful medieval walls, we then walk along the Belvedere (more awesome countryside views!) cam14951domme to the center, with its ancient market hall (the bastide town was founded in the 1200s by Philip the Bold). cam14955Domme is a great place to buy Dordogne specialties, and we wave goodbye with a few bags of chocolate covered walnuts (we passed those groves on the way here!) in tow.
Our days in this gorgeous part of France have been filled with such delights….there’s so much more we could see if we had more time, but we and our guests are thoroughly satisfied with what we’ve enjoyed.

 

 

A Castle and a Village

A Castle and a Village

Sunday, June 9, 2014, continued
Beynac and Issigeac, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on our late fall adventure in England – Bath for the Mozartfest

The Dordogne is brimming with castles, and one of the finest crowns Beynac.

Nadine, the owner of the ferme auberge where we enjoyed a delicious meal, recommended a restaurant we’d noticed earlier this week, La Petite Tonnelle, in the lower part of town.  So after our exhilarating market morning, we drive north, then snake along the road beside the Dordogne river to Beynac. It’s heated up to a scorcher of  a day, and the shade of the tonnelle, the awning over the terrace, is welcome, along with a refreshing breeze.

With an abundance of choices both on the menu and on the daily special board, it’s a challenge to narrow down what we want – everything sounds wonderful. And oh it is, from the fresh spring asparagus velouté all the way to a spectacular café gourmand. By the time we take a break from our oohs and aahs to take a picture, we’re almost the last ones left on the terrace.

When we get back in the car, the thermometer reads an astounding 37 degrees C. Double and add 30 for F – you can do the math. Ugh! Those canoe-ers in the river have the right idea today!

Tomorrow will be the last day of our Dordogne explorations, so we take time to gather and pack back at the apartment. By the way, we had to buy a duffle at the market to include all of those irresistible buys!
We were so charmed by Issigeac this morning that we decide to go back tonight and find dinner, so we can see the village without market stalls and crowds. The half-timbered architecture draws us back a few centuries…adorable!

Well we certainly can see the bones of the village – it is absolutely deserted!

What a contrast to the morning hordes…where IS everybody?

And with only ONE restaurant open, every place reserved, there’s not a table to be found. What a surprise! So we quickly explore intriguing corners,

then head back to Castillonés where a table awaits at the local inn – we’re just in time!

One Plus Beaux Village after Another!

One Plus Beaux Village after Another!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Dordogne Villages, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on our newest tour, a Fall Musical Houseparty in France! 

What do you find at a Dordogne market? Foie gras and duck in every imagineable preparation, walnuts – whether liqueur, chocolate covered, candied, local wines…table after table of delicacies, even on a rainy day. Yes, Wednesday is market day in Sarlat, rain or shine. The massive iron doors of the ancient market hall are open – come on in and look around!


The day began with rain, but by the time we arrive at our first Plus Beaux Village of the day, Beynac, the sun’s out.

This special designation of villages began not too far from here in 1982, when the mayor of Collanges-la-Rouge (truly a beauty with its rosy cluster of buildings) was inspired by a Reader’s Digest book about the 100 most beautiful villages in France. He noted the many charming old villages that were falling into decay, many nearly uninhabited, and did not want to lose this valuable and beautiful patrimony of France. So Les Plus Beaux Villages de France was founded, beginning as an association of 66 rural villages, and has since become a hallmark by which visitors can discover some of the most beautiful and off-the-beaten-path sites in France.
In addition to stopping by some of these lovelies, we’re on the hunt for just the right hotel and village for our newest tour.

Isn’t this a pretty one?

But there’s a railroad track just across the parking lot from the hotel, and the village is so sleepy we can’t find an open restaurant or even a bakery!
Outside of town we finally find a restaurant serving lunch – and a delicious one it is! No doubt we’re in duck country….my salad’s loaded with foie gras, duck breast, and duck gizzards – yum!

Following the curves of the river, we pause time and again for a photo – such lush countryside!

Next stop, the historic Château des Milandes, built in the 1400s, and purchased in 1947 by the legendary entertainer Josephine Baker, who provided shelter for Resistance fighters during the war, then used the property as a home for a “Rainbow Tribe”of orphans of various races.

Towering on a nearby hill is the fortress-chateau of Castelnaud, the English strongold of the 100 year war glowering across the river to the French-held chateau of Beynac.

Tucked beside the river, our next Plus Beaux Village is La Roque Gageac,

with church, houses, and even a fort built right into the cliff.

From the riverside, we zigzag up, up and around to Domme, another of the listed beauties of the Dordogne – the region’s FILLED with them! With its ancient market hall in the center,

it’s a short walk to views off every side.

Still in search of just the right hotel, we head south west, and pass a little no-name village that we think would make a good candidate for yet another Plus Beaux Village.

Dozing in the warm afternoon, the lanes are quiet, not a peep or a sight of a soul.

No hotels for us around here…so it’s time to return to our home for the next few days.

We’ve got so much running around to do that we’ve scarcely had time to appreciate this lovely apartment! Such an inviting living room…let’s just sit and enjoy!